Archive for the ‘en français’ Category

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

[update below]

What a miserable affair. Worse than pathetic. One can hardly believe that French politics has descended to this level. And with everything else happening in France and the world, that this is the talk of the town. I, for one, refuse to read Valérie Trierweiler’s book. I won’t even pick it up. I have learned as much as I need to know about it from the media coverage, plus these choice morsels published in Les Inrocks. Now I have no sympathy with François Hollande in this sentimental psychodrama, as I made clear in my posts of last January when the thing first broke (here and here), but now have even less for Valérie T., who, in her manic—and likely successful—effort to politically assassinate her ex-companion and permanently sully his character, has only further discredited herself—and sullied the institutions of the Republic in the process.

This does indeed seem to be the consensus at least among journalists. E.g. Ariane Bonzon—whom I know for her excellent enquêtes on Turkey—has a good commentary in Slate.fr on “La triple faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” which thus begins

Lors de l’affaire DSK, un de mes amis, qui n’avait pourtant rien à voir directement avec cette histoire, m’avait dit qu’il se sentait lui aussi touché: «J’ai honte à trois titres: en tant qu’homme, en tant que juif et en tant que libertin.» Chacune de ces identités impliquant chez mon ami une certaine exigence, éthique. Comme si l’opinion qu’il avait de lui-même avait été bafouée par DSK, homme, juif et libertin.

En lisant le livre de Valérie Trierweiler, j’ai ressenti le même sentiment que cet ami: ce livre me fait honte en tant que femme, en tant que citoyenne et en tant que journaliste.

Renaud Dély of Le Nouvel Obs had a similarly entitled commentary on Thursday, “La faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” in which he asserted that

Le livre de l’ex-Première dame n’est pas seulement un brûlot anti-Hollande, c’est une attaque contre l’esprit civique et une menace pour les institutions.

Rue 89’s Pierre Haski was on the same longueur d’onde in his commentaire à chaud, “Grand déballage de Trierweiler : la vengeance est mauvaise conseillère.” For his part, France Inter political editorialist Thomas Legrand—who is one of the smartest, most insightful analysts of French politics around—, in speaking of VT’s book, deplored “L’arlequinisation de la vie politique” in his commentary the day before yesterday. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in an interview on Europe 1, called VT’s book a “moral suicide” of the ex-première dame, and in which he quoted from an editorial by La République des Pyrénées’s Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, who observed that

L’image que son “ex” donne de François Hollande est terrible au point qu’on se demande comment elle a pu rester une décennie avec personnage qui apparaît sous sa plume comme menteur, arrogant, infidèle, veule, lâche et surtout cynique.

Indeed. Mme Trierweiler does not smell like a rose in all this. Loin s’en faut.

One thing I need to assert—and that I have been doing since Wednesday—is that I do not believe for a split second that Hollande uttered the bit about “les sans-dents” in the first degree, i.e. in a literal sense. If he indeed said such a thing about poor people, there was certainly a context, or he was being ironic about someone else who may have said it, or something like that. As Libé’s Laurent Joffrin said on France Inter this morning, no one who has known Hollande personally over the years and spent time with him—as has Joffrin and so many other journalists, politicians, and public personalities—gives the slightest credence to VT on this. For this smear alone, she deserves permanent banishment from public life—and certainly from the journalistic profession.

If all this is not the coup de grâce to Hollande’s presidency, it’s not far from it. I don’t know how he and his entourage at the Elysée will pick up the pieces from this but they’ll no doubt soldier on nonetheless, as Hollande will certainly not resign. Unless he commits a crime or misdemeanor, or some really gross indiscretion, there is no reason for him to do so. He just won’t do it. And almost no one outside the Front National wishes for him to, or for him to dissolve the National Assembly at the present time. As the latest TNS-Sofres baromètre reveals, every political party in this country—including the FN—is presently judged negatively by public opinion. C’est du jamais vu. And the latest baromètre of L’Observatoire Politique CSA shows only two national political personalities—Alain Juppé and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem—to have higher positive than negative numbers with those polled. I mentioned this in my post last week on Valls II and it’s being confirmed with every poll that’s coming out. If neither the PS nor UMP has an interest in going to early elections, then they won’t happen. Period. Moreover, alarm at the damage to the political system and institutions of the Republic is sure to be expressed by increasing numbers on both left and right, as has Sophie de Menthon in a tribune in the right-leaning webzine Atlantico, in which she calls for a “Halte au feu! Pourquoi il faut sauver le soldat Hollande malgré lui.” As she puts it

A trop critiquer François Hollande, nous contribuons à mettre plus bas que terre la fonction de président de la République, ce qui finit par être mauvais pour la croissance et le moral de la France.

If one hasn’t seen it, Art Goldhammer had an incisive analysis yesterday of this weeks’s events (and in which he offered a tidbit about me, which I clarified in the comments thread).

Triste France, c’est tout c’que j’ai à dire.

UPDATE: Magistrate Philippe Bilger—whose political views are solidly on the right—has read Valérie Trierweiler’s book and written a commentary on it, entitled “François Hollande en compagne!,” on his Justice au Singulier blog (September 6th). On “les sans-dents” business, which right-wingers are going to town with on social media, he has this to say

La version de VT est-elle d’ailleurs exacte? L’Elysée dément et conteste ces allégations. On comprend que François Hollande soit «atterré»: on le serait à moins, sans que cela valide en quoi que ce soit les coups ciblés de VT.

Même si elle a mis en lumière les ambiguïtés de l’histoire amoureuse et politique entre Ségolène Royal et François Hollande, j’attache cependant infiniment plus de crédibilité à celle qui a été sa compagne durant longtemps, la mère de ses enfants et qui est autant imprégnée d’humanisme que la journaliste. Ségolène Royal a formellement contredit cette image d’un François Hollande sarcastique et dédaigneux des affres de la misère en se fondant sur l’expérience qu’elle a eue de l’homme et du politique.

Bilger’s review is interesting and well worth the read.

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

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putin rides bear

Here’s the latest in my occasional series of links to interesting articles on the ex-Soviet Union (the last one in April), this prompted by David Remnick’s report in the August 11th issue of The New Yorker, “Watching the eclipse,” on the political evolution of Russia—and eclipse of democracy there—since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. The lede: Russia’s President sees himself as the leader of a new anti-Western, conservative axis, and his actions in Ukraine have made him a hero at home… Remnick’s narrative is framed by the experience of his friend Michael McFaul, political scientist and Russia specialist at Stanford, who was US ambassador to Moscow from January 2012 until resigning this past February. At some 11,500 words the piece is long but well worth the read.

While I’m at it, one good article I’ve saved, that dates from April 18th but is not time sensitive, is a special report by Reuters journalists David Rohde and Arshad Mohammed on “How the U.S. made its Putin problem worse.”

Here’s a 52-minute documentary that first aired on French public television in December 2013, “Russie, au cœur du goulag moderne.”

And in May M6 had a 1 hour 18 minute “enquête exclusive” entitled “Moscou au cœur de tous les extrêmes,” which may be viewed here.

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Gaza, July 9 2014 (photo:  Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gaza, July 9 2014 (photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

More links to worthwhile analyses and commentaries I’ve read of late.

Mouin Rabbani, senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut and co-editor of Jadaliyya—and who previously worked for the ICG in the Palestinian territories—, has a piece in the LRB (July 18th) on “Israel mow[ing] the lawn.” For those not in the know, the expression “mowing the lawn” in the Israel-Palestine context refers to Israel militarily intervening in Gaza every two or three years to degrade the military capacity that Hamas had built up since the previous intervention. Whacking the mole, as it were, except with the mole popping up in the same place.

Probably the most sophisticated exposition of the Palestinian position in the latest flare-up by a representative of the Palestinian Authority that one is likely to hear is PA ambassador to the EU Leila Shahid’s July 10th interview on France 24 (here, en français).

And here’s one of the more powerful TV reportages I’ve seen from Gaza, “‘Why did they destroy a hospital’?,” from Great Britain’s Channel 4 News (July 18th).

On why Hamas has adopted the strategy that it has in this war, Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the East Jerusalem think tank Passia, explained it well in an interview in Libération (July 10th), “«Pour le Hamas, il n’y a pas d’autre option que la fuite en avant».”

À propos, here’s a quote by University of California-Irvine historian and MENA specialist Mark LeVine—who is engagé, très gauchiste, and 100% pro-Pal—that he posted on July 11th on one of his FB comments threads

… I’ve been [to Gaza] many times. I’ve spoken with many activists over 15 years, and Hamas members too. I’ve been told by senior Hamas members as far back as the late 90s that “we are addicted to violence. We know it doesn’t work but we don’t know how to stop using it.”…

On Hamas rebuilding since the 2012 flare-up, journalist and columnist Shlomi Eldar explains in Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse (July 23rd) that “Hamas [has become] the first Palestinian army,” i.e. that it has built itself in a short period of time into the most formidable Palestinian army—not ragtag Fedayeen—that Israel has ever had to contend with. Eldar’s conclusion: Hamas is sufficiently dangerous for Israel that it needs to be smashed no matter what, even if ISIS-style jihadists take its place—and who would not pose a greater threat to Israel in any case.

The very smart GWU political science prof and MENA specialist Nathan J. Brown has an op-ed in WaPo (July 18th) on the “Five myths about Hamas.”

Jeroen Gunning, Executive Director of the Durham Global Security Institute, has an analysis on the BBC News website (July 18th) asking—and then trying to answer—”What drove Hamas to take on Israel?

I found the analysis by Avi Issacharoff (July 19th), The Times of Israel’s Middle East analyst, “Euphoric Hamas needs to hear that Israel will oust it from Gaza if necessary,” to be quite interesting. Even 100% pro-Pal FB friends agreed on this score (on the analysis’s interest, if not its conclusions).

Also in TOI is an analysis (July 17th) by its political correspondent Haviv Rettig Gur, “The tragic self-delusion behind the Hamas war.” The lede: In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, weakness is power, and power—well, it’s complicated.

Yes, complicated indeed. More next time.

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PS rally, Lyon, May 23 2014

PS rally, Lyon, May 23 2014

I turned on LCP last night, to see what was on, and caught live coverage of the Socialists’s final election rally, in Lyon, with party bigwigs in the front row and Martin Schulz the guest of honor. Manuel Valls had just started his speech, which I watched to the end. He was good! both on form and substance. The focus was on Europe. To watch it, go here and scroll down. After Valls’s speech LCP went live to Jean-François Copé’s UMP rally in Evreux. What a contrast. Whereas Valls was uplifting and Europe-focused—and with frequent references to Martin Schulz and the importance of him being elected the next president of the Commission—, Copé spoke almost exclusively about national politics, mainly beating up on François Hollande, the PS, and Marine Le Pen. It was a repeat performance of the Thursday night event on France 2 (see previous post). Lamentable partisan hackery. He mentioned Europe only in passing and, unless I missed it, made not a single reference to Jean-Claude Juncker, the presidential candidate of the European Peoples Party—the Europarty of which the UMP is a member. The UMP has not put the speech on its website, though this one from two days earlier looks to have been much the same. The sooner the UMP dumps him as party president—which may well happen sooner rather than later—, the better.


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This is an extended Tweet, i.e. no deep analysis. “Des paroles et des actes,” France 2’s periodic Thursday evening public affairs show, was devoted last night to the European elections. One+ hour of back-to-back interrogations of reps of the six major formations followed by a one-hour debate with all: Stéphane Le Foll (PS), Jean-François Copé (UMP), François Bayrou (UDI-Modem), Yannick Jadot (EELV), Jean-Luc Mélenchon (FdG), and Marine Le Pen (FN). I was initially not going to watch it—other and better things to do on a Thursday evening, who needs to listen to French political hacks and their demagoguery or langue de bois for the umpteenth time, etc, etc—but couldn’t help myself. If one wants an idea as to the state of the European debate in the French political class, this is where to go. Not brilliant. Loin s’en faut. Stéphane Le Foll—who was, until two years, not a first-tier Socialist—was the best; he impressed, both on form and substance, and strove to stay focused on European issues. The écolo Yannick Janot—unknown to the grand public (and myself)—was honest and solid. François Bayrou was François Bayrou; his well-known and well-worn federalist position on Europe is compelling but will likely fall on deaf ears these days. Mélenchon was also Mélenchon (and with his trademark red necktie), but I thought he was somewhat off form, stumbling over the stupid first question lobbed at him—on why the Front de Gauche isn’t doing better in the polls—, which he should have dismissed as irrelevant and not answered; and he only mentioned in passing his formation’s European presidential candidate, Alexis Tsipras. J-F Copé’s partisan hackery was pathetic and lamentable, as was his using the occasion to beat up on President Hollande and the PS rather that speak to European issues; the UMP—which is all tied up in knots over Europe (Nicolas Sarkozy’s tribune in Le Point being the latest demonstration)—would have been well advised to send someone else—e.g. Alain Juppé or Bruno Le Maire—to represent it in such a debate. But the worst was Marine Le Pen. I don’t know how anyone can bear to listen to that grosse conne and her abject demagoguery. If, par malheur, her party ends up sending 15 or 20 MEPs to Strasbourg, France will get what it will get: ridicule and diminished influence in the halls of European institutions. As José Bové incessantly repeats, a vote for the FN in the European elections is a vote wasted, as FN MEPs, when they even bother to show up in Strasbourg or Brussels, have no interest in European issues, have no idea what they’re talking about when they do try to speak on those issues, and have zero influence.

Here is Thomas Legrand’s commentary on last night’s debate. And here’s his commentary yesterday on Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s discourse on Europe.

The reviews of Sarkozy’s Le Point tribune haven’t been too positive. E.g. Sylvie Goulard, Modem MEP and Européenne du premier plan, takes it apart here and here (at 03:20).

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Two weeks ago I posted on the first-ever European presidential debate—for the presidency of the European Commission—, that was held on April 28th in Maastricht. Two nights ago another debate was held, before an audience at the European Parliament in Brussels, this time with all five candidates: Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt, Ska Keller, and Alexis Tsipras. The organization was stricter than the previous one, with the candidates limited to one-minute responses to each question. The moderators asked them to speak in English, so as to facilitate the simultaneous translation into the 24 official languages of the European Union, three of whom did (Juncker spoke in French and Tsipras in Greek). It was a pretty good debate. Schulz—who’s my candidate—was okay, Verhofstadt—by the far the best last time—was good, but the one I really liked was Ska Keller. She’s articulate, passionate, politically congenial, and gives an all-around positive impression. But, of course, she has no chance whatever of being chosen by the European Council. À propos, the candidates all made it clear that the successor to José Manuel Barroso will be one of them, that the European Parliament will approve no one other, and that the European Council needs to respect the will of the European electorate on this. Indeed. If David Cameron or some other wanker on the European Council refuses to endorse one of the five and tries to pull someone else out of a hat, it will spawn a crisis in the EU and further undermine the EU in the eyes of tens of millions of Europeans. And it will likely not fly in the end.

Then again, it might. Charles Grant of the top-flight think tank the Centre for European Reform, writing two days ago on “Presidential candidates, European federalism and Tony Giddens,” asserted that the President of the Commission is nominated by the European Council, that this is in the EU treaties, and the said Council may propose any candidate it pleases so long as the results of European elections are “[taken] into account.” On verra bien.

The debate (90 minutes) may watched in its entirely here in English et ici en français.

Voici un commentaire sur le débat par Bernard Guetta, sur les ondes de France Inter hier matin, qui l’a appellé “Le premier pas de la démocratie européenne

Dommage, vraiment dommage, que les grandes chaînes publiques n’aient pas retransmis ce débat d’hier soir. Dommage car c’était un vrai débat sur l’Europe entre les chefs de file des cinq grands courants politiques paneuropéens – gauche, droite, Verts, centristes et gauche de la gauche. Dommage car ces quatre hommes et cette jeune femme, Ska Keller, la chef de file des Verts qui a crevé l’écran par sa fraîcheur et sa cohérence, ont su donner à voir leurs différences sans jamais s’invectiver, pas une seconde, et montrer par là qu’il n’y a pas une mais des politiques européennes.

Dommage car on a vu là qu’aucun de ces grands courants ne prônait la fin de l’Union ou la sortie de l’euro et que ceux qui en sont partisans sont tellement divisés qu’ils n’ont pas pu – raison de leur absence de ce débat – se donner un chef de file transcendant les appartenances nationales. Et dommage, enfin, car on a entendu hier soir, beaucoup de choses importantes et notamment deux.

La première est qu’aucun des chefs de file de ces cinq courants n’imagine plus que le futur président de la Commission puisse ne pas être celui d’entre eux auquel le suffrage universel aura donné une majorité ou qui aura pu constituer une coalition majoritaire dans le futur Parlement. Tous ont dit qu’il y aurait déni de démocratie si les dirigeants des vingt-huit Etats membres tentaient de s’y opposer. Il y a unanimité sur ce point des cinq courants et l’on ne voit en effet plus maintenant comment le futur président de la Commission pourrait continuer à procéder d’un obscur compromis entre dirigeants nationaux et non pas du suffrage universel.

Tout semble bien dire qu’on est à la veille d’un vrai progrès de la démocratie européenne et, par conséquence, d’un rééquilibrage des pouvoirs entre la représentation des Etats et celle de l’Union, entre le Conseil européen, d’une part, où siègent les dirigeants nationaux et qui décide aujourd’hui de tout et, de l’autre, le Parlement et la Commission.

La deuxième chose importante est que l’on sentait bien hier soir, qu’au-delà de leurs différences, les cinq étaient d’accord pour promouvoir une politique sociale européenne, plus ou moins affirmée bien sûr. Le candidat des conservateurs, Jean-Claude Juncker, n’a logiquement pas cessé d’insister sur la nécessité de maintenir les politiques de redressement des comptes publics mais lui-même s’est déclaré partisan de l’instauration d’un salaire minimum européen et de la définition d’un socle social auquel tous les Etats devraient se tenir. Pour le reste, ce n’était pas la même chose. La candidate verte voulait la relance par l’investissement dans l’économie verte et les énergies renouvelables.

Martin Schulz, le candidat de la gauche, insistait, lui, sur la chasse à la fraude et l’évasion fiscales qui permettrait, disait-il, de faire l’économie de bien des économies budgétaires. Alexis Tsipras, celui de la gauche radicale, appelait à l’effacement de tout ou partie des dettes publiques. On retrouvait là tous les éléments d’identité politique de ces courants mais on comprenait aussi qu’aucun ne voulait poursuivre avec la seule rigueur et ce débat aura marqué, en un mot, les tout premiers pas d’une démocratie européenne.

Et voici un commentaire de Jean Quatremer, correspondant à Bruxelles de Libération

Les mastodontes télévisuels français (TF1, F2 et F3) sont passés à côté de l’événement de ce début de siècle : la naissance de la démocratie européenne, l’émergence d’un espace public européen, la fin de l’Europe opaque des Etats. Le débat entre les cinq candidats à la présidence de la Commission, une première dans l’histoire de la construction communautaire, a montré où se situaient les vrais enjeux, non plus au niveau national, mais au niveau fédéral. En dépit du format contraignant imposé (trop de questions, des réponses limitées à une minute, l’interprétation), une véritable émotion est passée, celle de l’Europe en train de se faire. Deux Allemands, un Luxembourgeois, un Belge et un Grec ont débattu entre eux en anglais, en français et en grec de questions dont on a pu s’apercevoir qu’elles n’étaient plus nationales, mais transnationales : l’euro, l’immigration, les budgets, la croissance, le chômage, la solidarité, les valeurs, la laïcité, etc.

On a pu voir l’histoire en train de se faire lorsque les cinq, en cœur, ont affirmé que les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement n’avaient plus d’autre choix que de choisir l’un d’entre eux au lendemain du 25 mai : la dynamique démocratique lancée par les partis politiques européens, lorsqu’ils ont décidé de désigner des candidats à la présidence de la Commission, est telle que rien ne pourra l’arrêter. Angela Merkel peut bien être réticente, David Cameron agiter un droit de veto qu’il n’a plus depuis longtemps, on ne voit pas comment le Conseil européen pourra ignorer le choix des électeurs et sortir de son chapeau un sixième homme ou femme qui n’a pas concouru. Le Parlement européen a pris le pouvoir et les citoyens doivent en prendre conscience.

Ce qui m’a aussi frappé, c’est l’absence de débat artificiel entre les candidats, style«faut-il sortir de l’euro»«faut-il quitter l’Union» ? Car, en réalité, ce sont des slogans, des artifices, aucun politique ne l’envisageant sérieusement en dehors de l’extrême droite, chacun connaissant le prix à payer. L’enjeu, et Alexis Tsipras de la gauche radicale l’a bien dit, ce sont les politiques menées. Personne n’est locataire de l’Europe, tout le monde en est copropriétaire et le consensus européen et de ne pas mettre le feu à la maison. L’absence ce soir de l’extrême droite et des souverainistes, incapables de s’entendre sur le nom d’un étranger pour les représenter, était de ce point de vue remarquable. Ils sont tonitruants en France ou en Grande-Bretagne, ils sont marginaux en Europe.

Et puisqu’il faut désigner un vainqueur : sans conteste l’écologiste Ska Keller qui a montré que la jeunesse avait faim d’Europe et qui a donné faim d’Europe. Alexis Tsipras a été aussi excellent, montrant que la gauche radicale pouvait ne pas être vociférante.

Le commentaire de Quatremer est suivi par d’autres—journalistes et universitaires—dans Libé.

Interesting that Quatremer found Alexis Tsipras “excellent.” I wasn’t overly impressed with him. And one commentator on the blog of the Centre for European Politics declared outright that “For Tsipras, it’s nulle points“…

RDV le dimanche 25.


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Paris Bourse, January 1999: celebrating the introduction of the euro (photo: AFP)

Paris Bourse, January 1999: celebrating the introduction of the euro (photo: AFP)

France 2 broadcast a 1 hour 40 minute documentary two nights ago on “Le Roman de l’euro,” produced in cooperation with Le Nouvel Observateur and presented by David Pujadas and the (very smart and excellent) economist Daniel Cohen. Here’s France 2’s summary

La monnaie unique a vu le jour il y a douze ans, redessinant à long terme les contours de l’économie européenne. Michel Rocard, François Fillon, Wolfgang Schauble ou encore José Luis Zapatero, racontent les coulisses «du Roman de l’Euro». Par ailleurs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, ex-directeur du FMI, s’exprime au cours d’une interview exclusive.

DSK is good here. As for the documentary as a whole, IMO it could have been stronger in detailing the arguments for and against the single currency when the project was elaborated in the early ’90s—I do a more thorough job of it in my class on the EU—, but gets better as it moves into the post-2008 crisis years. For those interested in the topic, the documentary may be seen via YouTube here (en français, évidemment).

In the interests of fairness and balance, here’s a critique of the documentary by the gauchiste economist Jacques Sapir, who calls it “Le roman (noir) de l’euro.”

On the subject of the euro, the Financial Times had a four-part must read series this past week on “How the euro was saved,” authored by FT Brussels correspondent Peter Spiegel. In a short video introducing the series, Spiegel “recounts the moments in 2011 and 2012 when the euro came closest to collapse, and how politicians and bureaucrats battled over the solutions that eventually saved [it].”

In part 1 of the series—”‘It was the point where the eurozone could have exploded'”—”on the year [2011] that forever changed Europe, Peter Spiegel recreates the three bitter days in November when the eurozone crisis hit its lowest moment”

In part 2—”Inside Europe’s Plan Z”—Spiegel “reveals how a secret strategy was developed to contain the firestorm from a Greek exit.”

Part 3—”‘If the euro falls, Europe falls’”—”examines Angela Merkel’s deft political moves that led to the end of the crisis.” One may also add the role President Obama played at a critical moment—and not mentioned in the France 2 documentary—, that obliged Merkel to change her position.

In the conclusion of the series—”The eurozone won the war – now it must win the peace”—Speigel says that “[t]he acute phase of the crisis is over but underlying weaknesses remain.”

As I said, the series is well worth reading. FT non-subscribers will have to register to access it (the free registration option offering eight free articles a month).

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